Category Archives: Personal

The green thing

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

 

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.

But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

 

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.

But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smartass young person…

We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to piss us off.

Oh my God

There you have them. The Christian god, or how it’s often seen, and one of the Pagan gods, or how it’s often seen. It? Not Him or He? Yup. It. For me there’s no god in that way.

Of course, there are many people who don’t agree with me. They say that there is a god and that god looks after us all, even the sinners who don’t believe in him, because he is a god of love.

Uhhuh.

Well, maybe not all of us. But still, he looks after many of us! As long as you don’t look at another god. And don’t break his rules.

Oh well. But wait, don’t Pagans have gods? Heck, I’m a Pagan, so I should have gods too, right? At least one, maybe even more!

Uhm. No. I don’t do gods. I do the power of Nature, the Universe, of which I am a part.

My point of view is mine however. If you value your god, then god be with you. Or gods, depending on how many you choose to carry. I’m fine the way I am.

Happy godding. Until you’re ready to face life and the universe on your own strength.

Avatar and its computer-array

I am an avid Avatar fan. Not the Last Airbender, but the epic film by James Cameron. My involvement on the Learn Na’vi forum, learning and teaching the language, as well as owning several copies of the film on DVD and Bluray should attest to that.

I also love technology that is put to use in a good way.

The combination of that goes into Avatar’s background. The link takes you to an article about the computing power used to render the film. It’s impressive.

Thirty four racks comprise the computing core, made of 32 machines each with 40,000 processors and 104 terabytes of memory. Weta systems administrator Paul Gunn said that heat exchange for their servers had to be enclosed. The “industry standard of raised floors and forced-air cooling could not keep up with the constant heat coming off the machines,” said Gunn. “We need to stack the gear closely to get the bandwidth we need and, because the data flows are so great, the storage has to be local.” The solutions was the use of water-cooled racks from Rittal.

Gunn also noted that tens of thousands of dollars were saved by fine tuning the temperature by a degree.  Weta won an energy excellence award recently for building a smaller footprint that came with a 40 percent lower cooling cost for a data center of its type.

For the last month or more of production those 40,000 processors were handling 7 or 8 gigabytes of data per second, running 24 hours a day. A final copy of Avatar equated to 17.28 gigabytes per minute of storage. For a 166 minute movie the rendering coordination was intense.

Carl Sagan – You Are Here (Pale Blue Dot)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PN5JJDh78I

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

— Carl Sagan (1934-1996)

Where to Find the Best Tea in Seattle

(This post originally appeared on Lipsweater and is reproduced with permission.)

If you got a chance to read my last post, you’d realize I’m a bit of a tea geek.

Part of being a tea geek is trying all the tea purveyors and experiences that you can find around town. An epic Seattle coffee geek post from Jonathon Colman inspired me to come up with my tea short list, so let’s get drinkin’!

(Disclaimer: I’m more of an “eastern” tea fan and that’s what you’ll see in this list. Still trying to warm up to western tea; give me more time!)

New Century Tea Gallery

New Century Tea Gallery

“A float down the Yangtze River in the Emerald City.”

Location: 416 Maynard Avenue South, Seattle

Personal brew time: You’ll spend at least 1 hour here. And arrive with an empty bladder.

This is a true Chinese tea experience where the owner will offer you to sit down for a personal tasting. She’ll continue to pour you tea until you turn your cup upside down or you pee your pants. (I’ve had a few close calls. Good thing the bathroom is two seconds away.) The tasting is free, but you’ll probably want to buy some loose-leaf tea afterwards as a courtesy. (Not hard to do because the tea there is delicious!) Pro tip: ask about their Pu-er (pronounced “poo AIR”… seriously, and it tastes nothing like, um… at least, I don’t imagine it does).

Teahouse Kuan Yin

Teahouse Kuan Yin

“A coffeehouse for tea lovers.”

Location: 1911 N 45th St, Seattle

Personal brew time: 2 hours or 8, there’s enough tea and open wifi to keep you cranking through your work.

Psst. Secret: this is my favorite work-day escape. It’s just like a coffeehouse–but all tea and more varietals than you can possibly taste. Order fresh-brewed loose leaf tea in a pot, sit, boot up your laptop, and enjoy for hours. BONUS! Delicious, wholesome soups, quiche, rice, and vegetarian dishes on hand to feed you at every meal.

Panama Hotel teahouse manju

Panama Hotel Teahouse

“A teahouse with a preserved history.”

Location: 605 S Main St., Seattle

Personal brew time: Less than 2 hours. It’s a neat hideaway, but the premium-priced tea and food will keep you from making it your office away from the office.

A historic hotel-turned-B&B with an awesome tea opportunity. The quality is excellent. They even offer manju, a work of art as a Japanese sweet. (Note: this place tends to be a little pricier, but it’s worth it.) Tip: the iced sencha paired with the green tea cookie make a tasty diversion for green tea lovers.

Seattle Japanese Tea Garden

Japanese Tea Ceremony

“The shortest route to Japan from Seattle.”

Location: 1075 Lake Washington Boulevard East, Seattle

Personal brew time: 1 hour for the ceremony, but plan on 2 hours to include a leisurely walk through the beautiful Japanese garden.

If you’re looking for the most authentic and historic tea experience you can get your hands on in Seattle, this is it! Arrive early for a true Japanese tea ceremony experience: walk through the gardens to relax your mind. Purchase your $5 tickets ahead of time and reserve a place to actually participate in a ceremony. (After paying $6 for entry to the garden, you’ll pay $11 in total.) In addition to a sweet and a bowl of matcha tea, you also get to sit in a traditional tea house imported from Japan! (Be sure you buy a ticket for the chado presentation.)

Zen Dog Tea Gallery

Zen Dog Tea Gallery

“A personal tea presentation from an urban zen master.”

Location: 2015 Northwest 85th Street, Seattle

Personal brew time: 30 minutes is enough time for a taste of one or two teas and browsing the collection of Asian art.

It’s literally in a home converted to an artist studio and Asian curio shop in the middle of a neighborhood. You can’t miss the location–the exterior has Chinese accents and red lanterns dancing in the trees. Larry, the shop owner, is an architect-turned-zen master. Way cool guy. Very welcoming and definitely knows how to sell his tea. (His tea sources are very trustworthy, too!)

Floating Leaves Tea

Floating Leaves Tea

“The local favorite.”

Location: 1704 Northwest Market Street, Seattle

Personal brew time: You’ll have to tell me. ;)

I’ve never been here but it’s been on my list of places to try. I consistently hear from my tea friends that it’s one of the best places to go, so try it out and tell me what you think!

BONUS! 

Cafe Cesura

Cafe Cesura

“My Eastside home base.”

Location: 1015 108th Avenue Northeast, Bellevue

Personal brew time: Stay for a few minutes or for hours. I usually hang out here at least 3 hours when I stop by to work.

Cafe Cesura is unique from the above in that it’s 1) outside of Seattle and 2) it has an equal focus on coffee. I love this place because it’s more convenient for me being an Eastsider and, although they also sell coffee, they just get tea rightin ways most coffeehouses don’t. Take one look at Cafe Cesura’s Facebook page – regular postings, interacting with fans, copious free tea tasting events – and you know Shawn (the owner) is passionate about appreciating tea.

Whew! There’s a great starting place. Have you tried other tea places around the greater Seattle area? Did I miss any? Let me know–or better yet, invite me out for a cup with you.

The need for speed.

How did the world turn into such a race track? And before you think I speak riddles: I mean motorways, freeways, Autobahn. Fill in the name depending on where you are.

If you have a car, how fast do you drive? And why do you drive it at that speed? Do you stick to the speed limit because faster is an offence? Do you go over the speed limit because it is a thrill? Or because you will be on time if you do? Or do you drive a lot slower?

I drive slowly. My speed on the motorway usually averages that of trucks. 80 to 85km/hour, about 55 or so mph. Is that slow? Sure, why not? People told me that there’s no fun in driving that slowly. It takes so long to get somewhere, all others are overtaking you, yadda yadda yadda.

Yesterday I did an experiment. I drove 120km/hour, about 78mph. Guess what? All but 2 cars overtook me. Right, that takes care of the argument that others overtake me, they do so anyway because they like to race like madmen, and of course madwomen. Well, with regular petrol only costing €1.82 per litre (think around $8.50 a gallon), what’s against that, right? It’s a cheap enough drive then.

My car is an eco-car. A Toyota Auris Full Hybrid. When I drive it the way I do now, I get almost 25km to the litre, about 60 miles per gallon. Works for me. The time I spend is my own, no one else’s, so that works for me too. And I get to see a lot more because I don’t race around like a fool, pushing to be in the rat race, going faster to do more, to be there in time, to do what the big lugs of the global economy expect everyone to do.

The world is going faster and faster, as if there is no tomorrow (there probably isn’t anyway, but that’s a different subject). Time flies, everyone complains about it, and money seems to fly along with it. (Well, pushing the accelerator will make that happen through the tiny vortex you create in your car’s fuel reserve.)

I’ll continue to take things easy. Time to hurry comes when there is a reason to, not because the rest of the world prescribes it. I’ll drive at my slow speed, see the trees and the cows, and the occasional sparrow-hawk or buzzard that sometimes sit on perches and signs along the road.